Today’s forecast was for showers clearing through by about 10am so Iain and I were feeling pretty smug on the walk into Coir’ a’ Ghrunnda in beautiful weather.
Not far up into the corrie we were equally delighted to find thick ice glazing the rocks, just what we’d hoped for after a week of westerly storms.
We needed crampons for the steep wee section just before the loch and by this time the snow was beginning to fall heavily.
There aren’t any worthwhile pictures from the following couple of hours; all our efforts were put into fighting against the storm. Uphill, kitting up, and even some climbing but there was no end to the pummeling we were getting from all directions. Retreat was the only option and we finally got some respite a few minutes later in the large cave under Sgurr Sgumain.
After lunch we went back out into the maelstrom which continued until we had slithered half way back down the corrie. Finally the clouds broke up and lit up our ice kingdom and gave us magical views out to the very moody Inner Hebrides of Rum & Eigg.
No joy with the climbing but a fantastic day out all the same.
Skye Winter Climbing Festival 2015
Waterfront Bunkhouse, Old Inn Carbost. January 24th to February 7th 2015
An open invitation to winter climbers and walkers with an interest in the Skye mountains.
Following on from the success of the past 4 years the Skye Winter Climbing Festival has expanded to a whole fortnight! Yep, 2 weeks for climbers to meet up, climb together and enjoy the post-match analysis. The Cuillin truly take on their Alpine status in winter and offer climbing and scenery like nowhere else in Britain. We’re not expecting anyone to come for the whole period but there is a whole lifetime of adventures to be had.
How does it work?
Nothing complex- Come for as many days as you want. There are beds for 24 people available throughout the fortnight; first come first served. Use the meet as a base for climbing with a regular partner or come and match up. Collectively we make sure that nobody is left partnerless, short of inspiration or too far out of their depth. You can self-cater but, in the past, we’ve pooled together for evening meals with one of our non-climbing friends knocking up a filling hearty meal ready for whenever we get off the hill.
£14 per night for a bed and £10 per night for evening meal (optional).
Background and information Skye Winter Festival
For the past 4 years staff and close friends of Skye Guides have held an informal winter meet. The meet has seen high levels of activity including over 20 new winter climbs. It’s not all high-brow climbing however with many parties enjoying the magnificence of the snow-clad Cuillin from the corries, easy peaks and the coast-line. As in summer it is the peaks and ridges that are the greatest attraction with adventures possible in almost any conditions.
Guests have come from far and wide as well as a strong local representation each year. The apres-climb plays a big part for many but only to a level that doesn’t stop the climbing! The festival has allowed us to meet some amazing people and hear about some incredible adventures they’ve had.
What’s to do?
Waterfront Bunkhouse at the Old Inn Evenings are informal; the accommodation has a spacious lounge with TV or there’s the pub next door. We’ve had illustrated talks on a variety of climbing trips, watched videos and guests are welcome to bring anything from musical instruments to their own climbing snaps.
If you’re interested e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call telephone Mike on 01471 822 116. Bed reservations will need to be paid for but we can also let you know how busy the different nights are looking. Wwe’ll get you to complete a booking form with your climbing grade, Cuillin experience, and details to help with lift sharing.
Got your own campervan- You’re still welcome to join us socially. Willy Sutherland’s campervan spot with hook-ups is at the Glen Brittle junction just half a mile away.
Last minute climber- We’re quite used to this scenario and happy for you decide to join us last minute. Keep in touch about space though.
Unsure?- Many of the Winter Meet regulars know the Cuillin very well, especially those who work here as guides. We’ll be offering is route advice and information on the ground but it’s a non-working meet for us and we’re here to play like everyone else. A list of attendees is circulated before the meet with details of their experience & depth of Cuillin knowledge. Through the meet walking and climbing teams slot into place after making acquaintances.
Travel- Let us know where you’re coming from and whether you want to share lifts.
Confused by this blog post?- The commercial aspect of the festival announced in November has been removed to open the meet to a broader audience. If you are one of the regulars who has now found that a far longer meet is planned go book more time off work
Social- The Old Inn is the climbers’ pub in Skye but also a busy local. It’s a lively spot with organised bands and impromptu jamming. In the past we’ve had slideshows and talks, guitars & games. Let us know if you’ve got pictures or musical talents. The bunkhouse itself has an open plan lounge and kitchen area with television.
The Old Inn probably the best pub in Carbost
Our great quantities of snow have been frustratingly soft for axe placements all winter but the hard freeze after this weeks thaw has finally given us the hard neve needed to climb some steeper routes. Hopefully a week of fun ahead!
Great day out today but very demanding and serious conditions which is the price to pay for harder snow. We started up Broad Gully then onto Sgurr a Bhasteir. Normally a simple grade I winter route the gully held some steeper sections but mainly a lack of any opportunity to rest the burning calves. Fresh snow drifted on top was thought provoking but our front points were able to bite through.
The NE Ridge of Sgurr a Bhasteir is also a simple grade I route in both summer and winter ordinarily but sections of hard snow out above the yawning void of the north face heightened concentration & tension about as high as the lactic acid in the legs.
The reward for all this graft was an immaculate horizontal crest of snow leading into Bealach na Lice and stunning views all around.
The obligatory bumslide was a mix of slow powder and ice sections that positively gave you a warm butt as the speed built up; not recommended anywhere apart from the gentlest of slopes at the minute!
In fact the icy conditions warrant a severe health warning not only in action but also when planning your route; I would certainly hesitate before planning to descend something like the Great Stone Shoot even with all the kit just now because of the combo of hard snow with deep pockets of powder.
Enjoy the pics-
Rachel suggested a look at the Pinn would float her boat last week and I nearly baulked. Luckily a weekend of warm rain hasn’t stripped the Main Cuillin Ridge but has left the Pinn nearly snow free. Crampons & axe were uneccesary precautions but couldn’t begin to spoil the pleasure of a delightful warm reunion with me old mucker Mr Pinn.
The Pinn was just a cherry on the cake of a superb alpine outing though. We hit hard snow at under 600m mark and enjoyed perfect consistency right to the summit of Sgurr Dearg.
The sun started to do its damage soon after midday but even this was pretty limited with a keen breeze keeping things cool up there.
Time for a Traverse before things break down Thursday evening and I’d suggest seriously contemplating some head-torch time to make good time on the harder snow. You’ll touch rocks at the toe of An Stac for the first time proper and increasingly after that but noty enough to loose crampons from what I saw.
SHould be some clues in the gallery photos-
It would appear that Skye stayed at least as cold on the tops as the rest of Scotland over the past weekend which I hadn’t anticipated myself. One guy made a fantastic effort on a full Traverse starting by Pinnacle Ridge on Friday, bivvying at Glaic Moire and finally being defeated by winds & blizzards at Mhicchoinnich. He reported near perfect snow conditions with little harder than grade III.
I can certainly confiorm this after 2 excellent days out with Andy & Nick Burton.
Winter and Cuillin virgins they coped very well in the howling gales on Banachdaich yesterday and definitely got the luck they deserved with a Traverse of Blaven Today. Out agin in the morning so I’ll just include a gallery below.-
Half way up. We made it about as far as where the cloud is sitting in the corrie.
Time for a change of hobby with all this soft snow. Angus and I loaded ourselves up and headed up into Fionn Choire at the northern end of the Cuillin. Going under foot wasn’t too deep and slow but the extra weight and wind catching the “sails” gave burning thighs.
Angus getting into the groove
No real action photos but some great videos of Angus boarding on Face Book; start here- https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=249402578571438&saved
I’m not looking forward to videos of my inept skiing leakiing onto the net but I got down in one piece, managed to put in a few turns and can’t wait to do it again.
Approaching the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean today
Chris is off for an expedition to Greenland in April and in serious training mode. Before spending the last 2 days with me he’d been climbing in Glen Coe for a week; his last day meant it was time to brace ourselves for some serious hard work.
With an improved forecast traversing Sgurr nan Gillean was the aim. Trying to decide whether Coir’ a’ Bhasteir or the Tourist Route would be less arduous was near enough 50:50 so we plummed for the more direct approach by the West Ridge. In the end the snow wasn’t too bad, rarely more than knee deep and we made it to the foot of the West ridge in about 2.5 hours.
The rest of the day was more than ample reward for our efforts- a 50m pitch up an incredibly banked out Tooth Chimney even had some nice ice. The ridge above was like something out of Narnia with dramatic sculptures of rounded snow and star-bursts of rime ice on the few rocks left exposed.
The summit cairn and narrow crest of the Tourist Route ahead resembled a weird cross between an anaconda and a beluga whale, intimidating as hell but far easier than in summer thank goodness.
A quick abseil was followed by a 100m traverse across steeep terrain that, again, proved far easier than its summer equivlant.
Abseiling down the Tourist Route
Normally the best line follows the ridge down for another 300m or so before cutting northward back towards Sligachan but so much wonderful deep snow was too good to miss. Everything apart from helmets was put into the sacks and, with Sochi in mind, we competed for the bumsliding gold medal. So fantastic were conditions that we ended up with possibly a new Skye record covering just under a kilometre and losing 300m of height in about 5 minutes! Who needs skis?
Some of you may have noticed the quality of pictures has dropped dramatically recently. Sadly a common problem with my wonderful Lumix is that the focus motor goes; new one arriving tomorrow so hopefully back to getting some decent shots again soon. The forecast is finally looking cold & promising!
Yesterday morning Chris, Nathan and I sat in Glen Brittle watching horizontal plumes of powder ripping off the ridges above us. The afternoon promised even fiercer winds and the temptation to run straight to the pub was strong. Being a bit early for this we steeled ourselves for a bracing wander as far as the winds and deep powder snow would allow us. The decision was rewarded with great snow conditions, hardly a breath of wind until we topped out and an excellent climb. The rugby match results were well worth missing!
Despite yet more heavy snow fall there was very little depth on top of the consolidated layers so progress was rapid. The exception to this was the best bum-slide of the year so far as we shot 500ft down from An Dorus in a matter of seconds.
The motto is never write a day off but thats a lot easier said than done with some of the weather we’ve been getting so far this winter!
Enjoy the gallery-
Yet more large quantities of snow have fallen over the past few days and I got a tip-off to avoid swimming in the corries.
Approaching by a ridge somewhat limits objectives but the NE ridge of Sgurr a’ Bhasteir is a firm favourite because it scours and goes, er, firm quicker than most.
What took me by surpise was the narrowness and size of the crest as we traversed into bealach na Lice. It was serious enough that I wanted to be roped up which somewhat surprised Graham & Peter. I may be getting soft but spying the boundary between the banked powder on either side was proving impossible. The drops may be less but this was a mini Rochefort Arete and Peter pointed out that the Alps normally have a trench of footsteps showing the best way!
At the head of Fionn Choire the drifts are now building up into huge bulging humps that must be rising 3 or 4 metres above the rocks. Huge fins of rime ice point out to the south-west and the summit cairn of Bruach na Frithe is nearly buried completely.
The knee-deep snow as we dropped down Fionn Choire just exaggerated my thought that I wish I had got skis; it would have been perfect right down to 1000ft!